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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

ScienceDaily: Top Environment News

ScienceDaily: Top Environment News

Conserving soil, water in world's driest wheat region

Posted: 24 Nov 2014 03:01 PM PST

In the world's driest rainfed wheat region, researchers have identified summer fallow management practices that can make all the difference for farmers, water and soil conservation, and air quality. Wheat growers in the Horse Heaven Hills of south-central Washington farm with an average of 6-8 inches of rain a year. Wind erosion has caused blowing dust that exceeded federal air quality standards 20 times in the past 10 years.

Boy moms more social in chimpanzees: Watching adult males in action may help youngsters prepare

Posted: 24 Nov 2014 03:01 PM PST

Four decades of chimpanzee observations reveals the mothers of sons are 25 percent more social than the mothers of daughters, spending about two hours more per day with other chimpanzees than the girl moms did. Researchers believe mothers are giving young males the opportunity to observe males in social situations to help them develop the social skills they'll need to thrive in adult male competition.

Climate change could affect future of Lake Michigan basin

Posted: 24 Nov 2014 12:26 PM PST

Climate change could lengthen the growing season, make soil drier and decrease winter snowpack in the Lake Michigan Basin by the turn of the century, among other hydrological effects.

New bird species confirmed 15 years after first observation

Posted: 24 Nov 2014 11:36 AM PST

Biologists have confirmed the discovery of a new bird species more than 15 years after the elusive animal was first seen.

Flower links Civil War, natural history and 'the blood of heroes'

Posted: 24 Nov 2014 11:33 AM PST

On August 14, 1864, in a Union Army camp in Georgia, a captain from Wisconsin plucked a plant, pressed it onto a sheet of paper, wrote a letter describing the plant as "certainly the most interesting specimen I ever saw," and sent it with the plant to a scientist he called "Friend" in Wisconsin.

Avoiding ecosystem collapse: Experts Weigh in

Posted: 24 Nov 2014 09:56 AM PST

From coral reefs to prairie grasslands, some of the world's most iconic habitats are susceptible to sudden collapse due to seemingly minor events. A classic example: the decimation of kelp forests when a decline of otter predation unleashes urchin population explosions. Three studies hold the promise of helping resource managers predict, avoid, and reverse the tipping points that lead to degraded habitats, economic losses, and social upheaval.

Cell's skeleton is never still

Posted: 24 Nov 2014 09:55 AM PST

Computer models show how microtubules age. The models reported by researchers help explain the dynamic instability seen in microtubules, essential elements in cells' cytoskeletons.

Italian natural history museums on the verge of collapse?

Posted: 24 Nov 2014 09:55 AM PST

Are Italian natural history museums on the verge of collapse? A new study points out that these institutions are facing a critical situation and proposes an innovative solution in the face of a virtual structure acting as a 'metamuseum.'

Global warming skeptics unmoved by extreme weather

Posted: 24 Nov 2014 09:54 AM PST

What will it take to convince skeptics of global warming that the phenomenon is real? Surely, many scientists believe, enough droughts, floods and heat waves will begin to change minds. But a new study throws cold water on that theory.

Selenium compounds boost immune system to fight against cancer

Posted: 24 Nov 2014 09:54 AM PST

Cancer types such as melanoma, prostate cancer and certain types of leukemia weaken the body by over-activating the natural immune system. Researchers have now demonstrated that selenium -- naturally found in, e.g., garlic and broccoli -- slows down the immune over-response. In the long term, this may improve cancer treatment.

Many animals steal defenses from bacteria: Microbe toxin genes have jumped to ticks, mites and other animals

Posted: 24 Nov 2014 09:54 AM PST

Bacteria compete for resources in the environment by injecting deadly toxins into their rivals. Researcher have now discovered that many animals steal toxins from bacteria to fight unwanted microbes growing on them. Genes for these toxins have jumped from bacterial to animals. These genes are now permanently incorporated into the genomes of these animals. Deer ticks, which can carry Lyme disease, are one of the many diverse organisms in which toxin gene transfers from bacteria to animal has occurred.

Enabling biocircuits: New device could make large biological circuits practical

Posted: 24 Nov 2014 09:53 AM PST

Researchers have made great progress in recent years in the design and creation of biological circuits -- systems that, like electronic circuits, can take a number of different inputs and deliver a particular kind of output. But while individual components of such biological circuits can have precise and predictable responses, those outcomes become less predictable as more such elements are combined. Scientists have now come up with a way of greatly reducing that unpredictability, introducing a device that could ultimately allow such circuits to behave nearly as predictably as their electronic counterparts.

Underwater robot sheds new light on thick, deformed, Antarctic sea ice

Posted: 24 Nov 2014 09:53 AM PST

The first detailed, high-resolution 3-D maps of Antarctic sea ice have been developed using an underwater robot. Scientists say the new technology provides accurate ice thickness measurements from areas that were previously too difficult to access.

Biopolitics for understanding social regulation and control

Posted: 24 Nov 2014 09:51 AM PST

People, as the biological beings that we are, can be socially regulated by mechanisms such as taxes, property or family relationships. This constitutes part of the social policy that the Roman government put into practice during its expansion throughout the Mediterranean, which left its mark on the eastern plateau of Spain, the historical Celt Iberian territory.

Cataloguing 10 million human gut microbial genes: Unparalleled accomplishment

Posted: 24 Nov 2014 09:51 AM PST

Over the past several years, research on bacteria in the digestive tract (gut microbiome) has confirmed the major role they play in our health. An international consortium has developed the most complete database of microbial genes ever created. The catalogue features nearly ten million genes and will constitute a reference for all research on gut bacteria.

Legendary snowmastodon fossil site in Colorado

Posted: 24 Nov 2014 08:18 AM PST

Four years ago, a bulldozer turned over some bones at Ziegler Reservoir near Snowmass Village, Colorado. Scientists were called to the scene and confirmed the bones were those of a Columbian mammoth, setting off a frenzy of excavation, scientific analysis, and international media attention. This dramatic and unexpected discovery culminates this month with the publication of the Snowmastodon Project Science Volume.

How our bodies keep unwelcome visitors out of cell nuclei

Posted: 24 Nov 2014 08:18 AM PST

The structure of pores found in cell nuclei has been uncovered by a team of scientists, revealing how they selectively block certain molecules from entering, protecting genetic material and normal cell functions. The discovery could lead to the development of new drugs against viruses that target the cell nucleus and new ways of delivering gene therapies, say the scientists behind the study.

The charming, useful ladybug

Posted: 24 Nov 2014 08:11 AM PST

During the warm months of the year, ladybugs are delightful to have around. Then fall arrives and the ladybugs need to find warmth, which is most available inside people's homes – where they often descend in large numbers. Suddenly they're not as cute to many people as they seemed outdoors. But an insect expert says having ladybugs indoors serves a very useful purpose, and humans should welcome their temporary houseguests.

Breaking with tradition: 'Personal touch' is key to cultural preservation

Posted: 24 Nov 2014 07:32 AM PST

'Memes' transfer cultural information like rituals in much the way that genes inherit biological properties. Now a study provides insight into the building blocks of cultural replication and the different ways they're used to preserve traditional rituals and practices.

Turtles and dinosaurs: Scientists solve reptile mysteries with landmark study on the evolution of turtles

Posted: 24 Nov 2014 07:32 AM PST

A team of scientists has reconstructed a detailed 'tree of life' for turtles. Next generation sequencing technologies have generated unprecedented amounts of genetic information for a thrilling new look at turtles' evolutionary history. Scientists place turtles in the newly named group 'Archelosauria' with their closest relatives: birds, crocodiles, and dinosaurs.

Fiddler crab migrating north, possibly from climate change

Posted: 24 Nov 2014 06:24 AM PST

The fiddler crab, Uca pugnax, has migrated nearly 50 miles north of its supposed natural range along the US East Coast. This may be another sign of climate change, experts say.

Mimics do not substitute for the 'real thing' for bomb-sniffing dogs

Posted: 24 Nov 2014 05:09 AM PST

Canines trained on pseudo-explosives could not reliably identify the genuine article (and vice versa). When it comes to teaching dogs how to sniff out explosives, there's nothing quite like the real thing to make sure they're trained right.

Damage caused by geothermal probes is rare

Posted: 24 Nov 2014 05:09 AM PST

Soil settlements or upheavals and resulting cracks in monuments, floodings, or dried-up wells: Reports about damage caused by geothermal probes have made the population feel insecure. In fact, the probability of damage occurring in Baden-W├╝rttemberg is lower than 0.002% per year.

Primates indispensable for regeneration of tropical forests

Posted: 24 Nov 2014 05:09 AM PST

Primatologist and plant geneticists have studied the dispersal of tree seeds by New World primates. Primates can influence seed dispersal and spatial genetic kinship structure of plants that serve as their food source.

Bad news for kids: Parents do not defend their offspring at all cost, bird study shows

Posted: 24 Nov 2014 05:09 AM PST

Do parents defend their offspring whenever necessary, and do self-sacrificing parents really exist? To answer this question, researchers examined defense behaviors of parent blue tits. They investigated whether birds would risk everything to protect their young from predators. Their conclusion: parents weigh the risks. It is not only the risk to the nestlings, but also their own risk that plays a role when defending their nests.

Molecules that came in handy for first life on Earth

Posted: 24 Nov 2014 04:48 AM PST

For the first time, chemists have successfully produced amino acid-like molecules that all have the same 'handedness', from simple building blocks and in a single test tube. Could this be how life started. On Earth? Or in space, as the Philae lander is currently exploring?

People ate mammoth; Dogs got reindeer

Posted: 24 Nov 2014 04:48 AM PST

Biogeologists have shown how Gravettian people shared their food 30,000 years ago. Around 30,000 years ago Predmosti was inhabited by people of the pan-European Gravettian culture, who used the bones of more than 1000 mammoths to build their settlement and to ivory sculptures. Did prehistoric people collect this precious raw material from carcasses -- easy to spot on the big cold steppe -- or were they the direct result of hunting for food?

Recreating clothes from the Iron Age

Posted: 24 Nov 2014 04:48 AM PST

A few years ago, the oldest known piece of clothing ever discovered in Norway, a tunic dating from the Iron Age, was found on a glacier in Breheimen. Now about to be reconstructed using Iron Age textile techniques, it is hoped the tunic will inspire Norwegian fashion designers.

Tropical inspiration for an icy problem

Posted: 24 Nov 2014 04:47 AM PST

Ice poses major impediments to winter travel, accumulating on car windshields and airplane wings and causing countless unsuspecting pedestrians to dramatically lose their balance. Scientists have now developed a new way to prevent ice buildup on surfaces like airplane wings, finding inspiration in an unusual source: the poison dart frog.

The secret of dragonflies' flight

Posted: 24 Nov 2014 04:47 AM PST

Dragonflies can easily right themselves and maneuver tight turns while flying. Each of their four wings is controlled by separate muscles, giving them exquisite control over their flight. Researchers are investigating the physics behind this ability by recording high-speed video footage of dragonflies in flight and integrating the data into computer models.

Brain injuries in mice treated using bone marrow stem cells, antioxidants

Posted: 21 Nov 2014 05:29 AM PST

For the first time, researchers have transplanted bone marrow stem cells into damaged brain tissue while applying lipoic acid (a potent antioxidant), with the aim of improving neuroregeneration in the tissue. This new way of repairing brain damage, which combines cellular treatment with drug therapy, has shown positive results, especially in forming blood vessels (a process called angiogenesis) in damaged areas of the brains of adult laboratory mice.

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